Upcoming fundraiser focuses on stopping suicide

Anthony Piscitella (left) with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.

PROVIDED PHOTOAnthony Piscitella (left) with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. PROVIDED PHOTO

By Kassie Parisi

Gazette Reporter

CLIFTON PARK — A local bar will host a fundraiser to address a complex issue that often goes unaddressed: suicide.

For the past three months, Anthony Piscitella of Troy has been organizing an event to raise awareness of suicide prevention. The event will also pay tribute to Chris Cornell, one of Piscitella’s favorite musicians, who recently took his own life.

The event will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Trick Shot Billiard’s and Sport Pub, at 1602 Route 9. Admittance is $20 for adults and $5 for children, and the fee covers unlimited pool. All proceeds will go to the Capital Region chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Local bands are set to play throughout the event. Piscitella said that he would like to raise anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000.

Though Piscitella, 48, said the idea to host his own event came from not only his long-term admiration of Cornell, but also from his own experiences in dealing with depression and suicide.

Piscitella previously worked as an occupational therapist. Eventually though, he became afflicted by chronic pain, and was forced to retire early. After going through multiple major surgeries and therapy, sometimes Piscitella, who used to be very active, became depressed.

“I had to learn how to be OK with becoming a spectator,” he said. “I’m home alone all the time.”

In a country that places so much emphasis on work, Piscitella said that the combination of being stuck at home and the pain he experiences have plunged him into deep depression. But Cornell’s music often helped him through some of his most difficult times, he said.

Suicide, Piscitella added, is all over the news all the time, especially when it involves a celebrity.

“It’s constantly in the news. I don’t know what it is,” he said.

But after the news cycle ends, he said, the issue of suicide retreats back into the shadows, and with that retreat comes an unwillingness from those who are depressed or suicidal to seek help. Once he started paying attention to the issue, he said, he couldn’t stop paying attention.

“I wish we could get rid of the stigma,” Piscitella said. “Seeking help goes a long way.”

For example, Piscitella noted that he feels better whenever he leaves his therapist’s office. He also participates in as much volunteer work as he can to keep himself busy. His most recent focus has been his upcoming event.

He noted that many people have thanked him for putting the event together, and have told him that they too have experienced depression, or known someone who committed suicide.

Piscitella added that while he isn’t sure what he’s going to do next, he’s made sure that he’s poured as much effort as he possibly could into making his fundraiser one that will leave a mark on people.

“It’s go big or go home,” he said.

Piscitella’s fundraiser isn’t the only event this weekend focused on raising awareness for suicide. Also on Saturday afternoon, there will be a community Out of the Darkness walk in Schenectady. The walk will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Central Park pavillion. Proceeds from the walk will go toward the AFSP as well.

Nichele Darby, a city resident, has organized the walk for the last four years. She said that she is expecting anywhere from 150 to 200 walkers. Darby lost both her son and niece to suicide, and said that events such as the walk and Piscitella’s fundraiser start lessening the difficulties that come with talking about suicide.

“There’s always a stigma associated with suicide,” she said. “It kind of breaks that stigma.”